Visitors gathered for a private viewing of the Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17
Visitors gathered for a private viewing of the Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress," at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
John Minchillo/Associated Press

Photos: Restored WWII bomber Memphis Belle makes public debut

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Hundreds of Air Force Museum visitors turned out to see the World War II bomber Memphis Belle, and the legendary aircraft rarely has looked better.

The plane went on public display at the museum near Dayton, Ohio, for the first time on Thursday morning after a restoration project that required 13 years and 55,000 hours of work.

After a brief ceremony, visitors crowded around the plane trying to get the best photos with their phones.

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The B-17 ‘‘Flying Fortress’’ will anchor an extensive exhibit in the museum’s World War II gallery, paying tribute to the thousands of men who served on B-17s on daylight bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe.

The plane was celebrated for being the first B-17 to survive 25 missions and return to the U.S.

John Minchillo/Associated Press

John Minchillo/Associated Press

Visitors gathered under the open bomb-bay doors during a private viewing.
Visitors gathered under the open bomb-bay doors during a private viewing.
John Minchillo/Associated Press

John Minchillo/Associated Press

John Minchillo/Associated Press

United States Air Force (Ret.) Colonel Howard Hunt, who once flew the Memphis Belle, met with fans during a private viewing.
United States Air Force (Ret.) Colonel Howard Hunt, who once flew the Memphis Belle, met with fans during a private viewing.
John Minchillo/Associated Press

John Minchillo/Associated Press

John Minchillo/Associated Press

John Minchillo/Associated Press

Robert K. Morgan, Jr., son of the Memphis Belle pilot of the same name, walked past the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" during a private viewing.
Robert K. Morgan, Jr., son of the Memphis Belle pilot of the same name, walked past the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" during a private viewing.
John Minchillo/Associated Press

John Minchillo/Associated Press